2018 年 62 巻 2 号 p. 115-123
In a variety of experimental models, dietary phytochemicals have been demonstrated to exhibit pronounced and versatile bioactivities. Importantly, the possibility of such phytochemicals for human application has been supported in part by epidemiological surveys, which have demonstrated that frequent ingestion of vegetables and fruits containing abundant phytochemicals lowers the risk of onset of various diseases. However, the action mechanisms underlying those dietary phytochemical activities remain to be fully elucidated. For example, even though the anti-oxidant effects of natural polyphenols have long received widespread attention from food scientists, their roles in and contribution to those bioactivities remain controversial because of their poor bioavailability, resulting in extremely low concentrations in the bloodstream. Meanwhile, another important question is why phytochemicals have beneficial effects for animals, including humans, since they are biosynthesized by plants as compounds necessary for adaptation to environmental stress. In regard to that fundamental question, we recently reported novel and unique mechanisms of action of zerumbone, a sesquiterpene with anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive properties. This agent was found to partially exhibit bioactivity through its non-specific interactions with cellular proteins. More strikingly, a non-specific protein binding action of zerumbone was revealed to partially contribute to its anti-inflammatory functions via activation of heat shock factor 1. The present review article highlights and introduces our recent findings regarding the proteo-stress-mediated mechanisms of this phytochemical, along with the concept of hormesis.